|Julian Hoffman and Julia Henderson|
Ed. note: Today's guest is author, amateur naturalist and avid walker Julian Hoffman, author of the award winning book, The Small Heart of Things: Being at Home in a Beckoning World. Julian and his wife Julia Henderson make their home beside the Prespa Lakes in Northern Greece, in a natural area of the Balkans sharing the borders of Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. There they monitor vulnerable bird species being impacted by proposed wind farms. Julia provided the photographs for Julian's beautiful piece about remembering to keep a keen eye open in our daily lives.
Julian's fiction and essays have appeared in numerous literary journals. He is currently working on a collection of short stories, and a new non-fiction book about the human interplay and connections with wildlife and natural areas.I'm very grateful for Julian's generosity in sharing his eye with us. Read it slowly; it merits savoring. You can find more of Julian's work at this link. --Jana
More than Meets the Eye
“The least I can do is keep my eyes open. Attention is what I want to spend. I don’t ever want to feel inside me a whole storehouse of unused binoculars, magnifying glasses, telescopes.”
~ Barbara Hurd, ‘Sea Stars’, Walking the Wrack Line
|Julian perusing the wilds|
|Julian surveys the blanketed estate|
|rosie chaffinch holding out against|
all those great tits. photo: julia henderson
Last March I travelled down the west coast of the United States on a book tour. It was my first time in that particular part of the world and everything about the journey – the people, places, landscapes and wildlife – was new to me, brushed with a unique light, the unmistakeable signature of first experience. My days carried a corresponding intensity. One of my stops that month was in Corvallis, Oregon, where I stayed with my friends Charles and Kapa. Along with their generous hospitality, and our long conversations and shared laughter, something else of that stay stands out for me: my time spent watching their bird feeder.
|left lower great tit, high right great tit. |
they're everywhere! photo: Julia H.
Charles asked me how I’d got on when he returned from work that afternoon. My excitement and delight must have been noticeable as I rattled on about the birds that had graced my day, their names alone a litany of mystery to me: dark-eyed junco, rufous-sided towhee, scrub jay. It turns out – and I should have known, given that it was a garden feeder - that these birds are some of the commonest around, the everyday Oregon equivalents of our great tits, chaffinches and tree sparrows. But that morning, staring through a pane of glass at a suite of elegant and astonishing creatures that were completely new to me, they were anything but ordinary. We tend to honour the first of things in our perceptual experience, elevating newness over repetition, rarity over regularity. It’s the novelty of the encounter that often sharpens its impression for us. Of course no matter how frequently we see a particular bird, becoming so used to its presence that we can sometimes turn indifferent to it in the process, the bird itself never alters at all.
|Julia surrounds the usual suspect|
--Julian Hoffman, January, 2015